Mentoring & Motivating in IT

This episode is continuing a discussion with Khris Hruska. Khris and I will discuss the need to for mentoring and motivating in IT and how these items have changed over time. We’ll also touch on how the cloud, vendor management, and O365 have changed the tech landscape and influence how you can keep motivating others. Both employees and vendors. Finally, we’ll get into time management and how mentoring can help others develop this important skillset.

It’s an episode chuck full of useful information and offers a surprise about what happened when Khris and I first met. Khris has been mentoring to many over the years (myself included) and his viewpoints are honest and insightful. Listen in to our conversation and soak it up.

Motivation of IT people

  • Khris had a recent conversation at a vendor meet in California. IT has changed over the last 10 years and has been forced to play a different role.
  • Back in the day, IT was very utilitarian. A “Best Buy” experience.
  • IT is required to be more of a partner and enabler for the business today. More so than just the foundation items. Now technology fuels what the company is selling. IT is in more of a consultant type of role. Currently, IT is more about how can you use solutions in new and unique ways to support and empower people.
  • We spend more time today talking with sales, execs, HR, etc. and mentoring them. O365 is a good example.
    • What to use in O365 and the cloud?
    • You are asked, “what should I use on O365?”
    • Office 365 Periodic Table chart attached at bottom of post. It is good for pointing towards a particular O365 tool for your needs.. (Note: Khris found this on a LinkedIn post we cannot find currently, but the original is from )
  • Employees seem ok with Yammer and it is used today in Khris’ company. Employees seem to like Teams now, but getting people to accept Teams over Yammer is tricky. This is part of the IT struggle. Understanding the business need and assisting the business to determine what technology makes the most sense.

Word pyramid

Communication Major

  • There is more acceptance today of what IT does. We deliver more than the standard solution and it’s more about what makes the business profitable. We have to be more extroverted as a result. Now you are out front presenting and in front of customers.
  • Khris’ communications major degree has come in very handy for this new IT world for those reasons.
  • “Part of the IT persons lot in life is keeping up with technology and what people need in the business.”
  • The constant change in IT today is very much attributed to the cloud. Early in IT, we wouldn’t have considered sticking an LDAP server in the cloud. Now it actually does make more sense.
  • This changes your mentality about your job so you are less of someone developing something from scratch. You are using cloud services instead.
  • Solutions now are less about writing code and more with integrating individual cloud entities with APIs. It’s more a facilitation exercise than it used to be before. So, a vendor management skillset becomes critically important. It makes you much more valuable.

Slippery slope

  • It’s a slippery slope. Especially with the insource/outsource back and forth. You have to have a framework to manage these external vendors. So, if you’ve been an introvert before, it’s much more difficult. You need to establish the KPIs for these vendors to meet your needs.
  • There is a lot of stress on you to understand privacy and security and how it impacts you and the company. Because everything is going to the cloud, you need to think more holistically. It’s no longer setting IRQs on a NIC card anymore. It’s managing others.
  • If you want to get into the guts of IT things (development, networking, servers, etc.) you are probably better off working for the big vendors as it’s where that level of technology involvement is located now. Interacting in a relationship with cloud vendors can make you more marketable overall with companies using those services when working with these outside vendors.

A tale of Pokémon & Padawans

  • Khris knows one person who worked at all the big vendors. Cisco, Avaya, etc. doing network infrastructure roles. This person was hopping from vendor to vendor like he was collecting Pokémon. Over time, the exposure better prepared him for this cloud style of external vendor management as he was exposed to the backend and knew what type of questions to ask and what to expect from those type of external environments. He also knew the kinds of directions to pass along to his Padawans/delegates for managing those vendors.
  • These skills weren’t easily collected. This person started out doing these implementations repeatedly. Not everyone can go that route. Most of us have to go a different route to get the rest of the business to understand and support our goals. Then we can work on getting where we want to go for a partnership perspective.

New security entry

  • “When you get the tap on the shoulder, you need to be open and engaging in conversations. This is more difficult for the current generation on one hand due to their reliance on texting, instant messaging, Facebook, etc. vs. person to person interaction.” – Tony V
  • Khris is now interviewing people for security roles. He looks for people who have acquired their security abilities through working in application or infrastructure and have been doing it for years. People with this background have a better idea of how to close security issues because of the experience. Khris has seen an influx of younger IT people who want to start day one in security. When asking questions like “how are you prepared to deal with infrastructure you have never worked on?”…The answer is I haven’t thought about that way before.
  • The entry point has changed. There isn’t the logical progression from before. It’s different since you can come in at any point. Managers need to figure this out and determine how to round out the skillset to make the overall team well-rounded.
  • Be well-rounded.  Have a primary, secondary, tertiary skillset. See Episode 5. It’s important to provide mentoring to the junior people coming in.


  • This isn’t about the tech. This is about watching how your manager interacts with vendors and how to correct for issues which come up.
  • Latch on to someone and Frankenstein your pieces and parts from those whom you see as good managers. Use their templates, how they run a meeting, how they present, etc. Note: This was also touched on in Episode 5
  • Finding a person who can act as a mentor is important and critical to advance your soft skillset in the proper direction.
  • Mentoring is not formality supported by enough companies. Some people are compelled to pay it forward and others not so much.
  • There will come a point in time when the mentee doesn’t need your mentoring. They will likely only come to you when they need something specific.
  • It is hard to find someone who wants to provide mentoring. Khris’ original mentor Dave Lee stated: “It’s your moral responsibility to find someone else to share your info with.”

Acknowledged Skills

  • The part Khris enjoys the most, is seeing those who have acknowledged still using the skills he provided them as they have reached higher levels in their career.
  • “Rotations within large organizations are accelerated to get people up to speed quickly. But may not provide all the tools needed to go forward in the right way. This may not result in a well-rounded person.” – Tony V
  • The programs churn out people who are always learning but, then not able to apply what is learned properly. The struggle with this is it’s a one-way fire-hose mentoring relationship. People don’t get to share how they want to receive mentoring. When you get an open-ended conversation back and forth between mentor and mentee, it blooms to its full potential. When good relationships are established, then mentoring can provide even more value.

Time management

  • Take advantage of being exposed to someone with the experience of crashing and burning. This is valuable mentoring. You learn their work ethic as well. Mentoring is also going to teach you time management. Time management is critical for IT people. “If you can’t handle time management, then everything else is secondary”
  • “It’s time management and task management together overall.” – Tony V
  • We all start out in IT as tactical players. Fixing a ticket. Installing a server. Writing some code…whatever. There isn’t Project Management or time management. As you go along, these tasks are stacked on each other and become pseudo-strategic. And then as that goes on, these become multiple tactical projects which become programs, and multiple programs which become a strategy. And this is where time management comes into play. Those doing the previous tactical items may not be ready to manage at this level of time management.
  • Everyone has their own method of doing it, but it does require discipline.

Hruska’s 3 PMP tenants

  • How fast, how high a quality, and how much do you have to spend. Khris breaks down tasks and approaches time management this way. He will look at it from the top down with those tenants and then work it from there and determine the milestones. Once the right steps are taken, it’s actually kind of simple.
  • Khris’ biggest lesson learned over time?…Get everything in scope. Not just PM but, everything. Keep what’s important in front of you. Understand what is in scope and understand what is noisy. Khris is a big Covey quadrant fan. Deliver the highest value for the people it’s affecting.
  • Know when something is critical and when it is not. Keeping down the noise to keep things in scope is critical. Although “critical” is a word Khris bans in his house. Along with “concerned” and “frustrated.”
  • It’s a difficult thing to keep things and people in line with this understanding of what is critical. It’s massively important to keep things in scope for your health and welfare & personal and professional growth.
  • Learning to delegate is also a critical skill. Knowing how to delegate and who to delegate to is important. But delegating to someone new takes trust and time to develop. Conveying the level of quality required is equality important and happens over time. When the delegate understands the quality required, and you know you can depend on this person to delivery the needed quality, that is when you know you can delegate successfully.

IT/Geek Speak this episode:

  • PMP –  Project Management Professional – A certification Project Managers can achieve after proving a number of years of experience.
  • PM – Project Manager – A person who is trained in how to manage a project. This includes risk assessments, planning, customer interaction, documentation, etc.
  • IRQ – Interrupt Request Line – Lines used to send signals internal to your computer to the processor. Back in the day, you had to manually modify these just to get a sound card, Network Card, or modem to work.
  • NIC – Network Interface Card – Used to be these were fairly large inside or outside computers. But now they are simply the small plug you connect your network cable to for internet…if you aren’t using wireless.
  • Pokémon – Card game imported from Japan where you use the cards to “battle” other players. The tag line was “gotta catch ’em all!”
  • Padawans – Start wars reference for an apprentice – Padawans learned the ways of the force from Jedi Knights so they could become Jedi’s themselves one day.
  • O365 – Microsoft Office 365 – Microsoft’s cloud based software solution for for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and others.
  • TLS – Transport Layer Security – Provides a secure method of communication between devices.
  • Qualys Scan – Qualys is a company which provides a method to perform a security scan against your network, software, devices, etc. It is an industry standard when testing base security.
  • Covey Quadrant – Stephen Covey is the author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and the Covey Quadrants are discussed in his book. It is a method of determine what tasks take priority over others and what is within your power to change.
  • KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – Usually used to determine how you are performing against expectations. Just about anything can have a KPI attached to it.
  • Cloud – The nebulous cloud is essentially a shared space of computer power you rent each month. Some other business such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc. maintains the gear and you use the service.


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